by Doug French by Doug French
With prices at the pump in the $4-per-gallon range, people are starting to think twice about taking those unnecessary trips. And it’s likely to get worse. “As the lack of supply growth and price-insulated non-OECD demand suggest a future rebound in U.S. gross domestic product growth or a major oil supply disruption could lead to $150—$200 a barrel oil prices,” the analysts at Goldman Sachs recently said.
Not that these considerations are new.
As a young boy, I used to spend some time with my grandma French-Lucille. And although I suppose this would be frowned upon today, Lucille took me along to enjoy her favorite pastime one Saturday afternoon: Bingo at the Eagles Lodge.
According to the FOE (Fraternal Order of Eagles) official website, the organization’s mission is to “uphold and nourish the values of home, family and community that are so necessary and it seems so often get ignored and trampled in today’s society.” Maybe that high-sounding cause was their reason for being back in 1963, but as near as I remember, the Eagles Lodge in Abilene existed for one reason — bingo. Of course, the Eagles met at a small building located “south of the tracks” back in those days, probably on the very site of one of the storied cow town’s hundred or so saloons that had thrived at the climax of the Chisholm Trail between 1867 and 1887.
But by the early 1960s, the Longhorns, the cowboys and the bars were long gone — replaced by pious farmers growing wheat and fattening Herefords. But a spirited game of bingo could still be found at the Eagles Lodge, which happened to be located just a few short blocks from where Lucille and my grandpa Glen lived.
I was not only the only male in the room, but certainly the only 6-year-old there. And Lucille didn’t see why I shouldn’t go ahead and play a card. The cards were a nickel apiece, so while she played a couple of cards I proudly played one of my own. The wonderful thing about bingo, in addition to the social aspects of the game, is as the numbers are drawn, the suspense builds; most everyone playing thinks they have a chance of winning.
Well, sure enough, I covered that last number, and looked expectantly at Lucille. She said, “Shout bingo.” I was so excited and nervous, as they counted back the numbers to verify that I had won. It would have been very embarrassing to have made a mistake. But I hadn’t. The jackpot was mine: all 50 cents of it.
I made my way to the front and collected the prize. When I returned to my seat, I showed Lucille the two quarters. She quickly snatched one from my hand. “Why are you taking one of my quarters?” I plead. “To pay for the gas to get over here,” Lucille replied, putting the quarter in her pocketbook.
That quarter came close to paying for a gallon of gas that year — the average price per gallon was 30 cents. And the 1963 (or earlier) quarter was, shall we say, sturdier than today’s version: 90 percent silver, 10 percent copper. Today’s quarters, according to the U.S. Mint, “are ‘clad,’ which means layered. The inner core is pure copper and the outer covering is copper mixed with nickel.”
A quarter weighs about a fifth of an ounce. At today’s silver price of around $18 per ounce, the 1963 quarter had the equivalent of today’s $3.24 of silver in it. Thus, silver essentially buys the same amount of gasoline today that it did 45 years ago.
Gas isn’t getting more expensive; the government’s money just continues to be degraded. If the Fraternal Order of Eagles is looking to “uphold and nourish” good values, they should champion the cause of sound money.